Paying for a wedding is like buying a new car. Plan on shelling out anywhere from $20,000-$40,000 depending on key decisions you and your sweetheart make. Okay, planning a wedding is WAY more fun than buying a car, but the financial weight is just the same. That’s why it’s super important to set a wedding budget and stick to it. Of course there are some things you should never cut corners on, like scoring a phenomenal photographer, but some things are negotiable. For example, what kind of paper the invites are printed on… We’ll get into that later.
Figure out what areas of the wedding you’ll notice if you skimp on, then see what details won’t make a big difference in the overall scheme of things. Being determined and organized is the first step to knocking your wedding day out of the park!
Tips on Finding a Budget, Then Not Jumping Ship
What do you and your fiancé care most about? What will guests notice? What will they not care about? Dig deep into your expectations and also consider what guests will be exposed to (but don’t care too much, it’s still about you). Jot out a “Top 5” list and make sure you take care of those important purchases first, then budget the rest of the wedding around what you have left. For some brides, the dress may be a BIG factor. For some, they may prefer an expensive venue. What’s your must-have?
Make a ListLists are your best friend. This list will consist of “maybes.” Let’s say you would like to have a chocolate fountain at the reception, but the world wouldn’t end if that didn't happen. At the end of your wedding budget, if you have the money for it, sure. If not, skip it.
Learn How to Trade UpWhat could be cut in order for you to splurge on something really important, like your dream dress? Like with any budget, being flexible and working with what you got will make for a smoother and more enjoyable experience.
Put it in Motion
Be proactive and write that sucker down. The thought of your significant other holding you accountable is reassuring, but we all slip sometimes. And when it comes to money, slipping is easy to do when pen and paper isn’t involved. Create a plan and hang it on the fridge. A lot of great online budget tools are out there. Google away.
Now that you’ve been saving and you’ve come up with a realistic wedding budget, here are a couple tips on how to divide your hard earned money.
Photos are one of the most important parts of your day - you’ll have them forever! Make sure to do some FBI-approved research when it comes to finding a professional photographer who will perfectly capture the big day.
Ask family and friends for references. I bet you there’s a talented photographer less than 5 miles away from you.
Wedding DressFollow your heart. For most of us growing up, dress-up was one of our favorite games. You’ve most likely been imagining this day and what you’re going to wear down the aisle for a long time. This white masterpiece is what you’ll be donning the entire day, and the pictures with last forever. Don’t settle, girl! Get the gown you want. Of course you should set a budget and stick with it, but don't skimp just for the sake of finding a cheap gown. Know the difference between cheaply made and inexpensive, but quality gowns.
What if I told you beautiful, quality bridal gowns do exist at an affordable price? Cue the gasps. Find your perfect style.
Band or DJ
Dancing at your wedding is a memorable moment for you, and also your guests. Whether it’s a band or DJ, make a special space in your budget for good music. Preferably a style of music that you and your fiancé love. Even better! If you’re not a dancing fanatic, no worries. Find a reliable DJ to provide great entertainment.
Pro tip: A string trio may be cheaper, and the live music sounds just as good.
Event Lighting and Set Up
The right lighting set the whole mood for the venue. If you’re having an indoor wedding, check to see if the lights can be dimmed. Warm, intimate lighting is great for pictures and sets the tone for dancing. If your venue charges an extra fee for event lighting or general set up, my advice is to fork it over unless it is truly out of budget. The last thing you want is to scramble to find someone to help set up the space on the big day or to arrive and find a poorly lit room. If there's one day to let someone else take the reins on the logistics, it's your wedding day!
Sophisticated Grace Photography
You appreciate your guests more than anything, and you want to thank them for their attendance. But by no means should you spend an arm and a leg on extravagant party favors when you’ve spent enough on food and beverages. Stay away from costly party favor gifts, even if you’d be the coolest bride in town. Just don’t do it.
DIY, DIY, DIY. I promise you, DIY party favors can cost less than $3/each and your guests will love sentiment. While taking on another project might seem daunting, there are tons of super easy options like the couple's favorite candies or favorite coffee grounds in a cute bag. You can hand letter a tag or even create a custom stamp to put the finishing touch on the packaging - super cute and cheap!
Save the dates, detail cards, rsvp cards, and invitations will keep you running back and forth to your local print shop. Not to mention addressing all those cards can be a HUGE pain. Save a tree and combine invitations, reception and response card in one unique design. Consider skipping save the dates and just sending out invites slightly earlier. All of the important wedding information will be received at the same time, and you’ll save a ton on postage. Flat printing is an affordable technique for mass printing. Watch out for engraving and letterpress. While your invites might look fancier, these techniques have a higher price tag.
If you prefer to save a forest (kidding?), go digital. Hire a graphic artist to create digital invitations and email it to friends and family. Guests can RSVP on your wedding website or app and will have plenty of time to plan whether they're local or will be coming from out of town. Saving time AND money is the best combo.
Sophisticated Grace Photography
You’ve heard the horror stories. Veils tearing, getting stepped on and ripped, wine stained or accidentally left behind after a night of wedding shenanigans. A white, flowy veil is a classic piece for any bridal dress, but don’t make the same financial commitment as you might have done with a gown.
Picking a simple veil with few embellishments will help you stay within your budget. Less beads, less bucks. Check out these veils that will fit into your budget and remind you of your special day for years to come.
All that glitters doesn’t have to be gold. Adding in pricy accessories like Tiffany bracelets and Gucci earrings can really set you back on your budget. Instead of purchasing your own diamond necklace and earrings to match your gorgeous gown, loan a family heirloom. Jewelry borrowed from your loved ones will have more meaning and sentiment!
Find some inexpensive, custom-made jewelry on Etsy, or stop by your local Claire’s. No one will notice. We promise, we’re looking at how happy you and your spouse are, not the price tags on your gems!
Could Go Either Way - Start Prioritizing!
Wedding cakes are arguably a core element to the whole design of your dream day. A lavish, extravagant cake with buttermilk frosting and sugar flowers sounds appealing, doesn’t it? But take a deep breath and picture all of the other details you have going on for decor. Beware of overly decorated cakes, because more fancy designs correlate with higher prices. Simple is better, but don’t shy away from finding a mouthwatering cake within your budget.
Offering a variety of smaller, affordable deserts like pie or donuts saves you the hassle of the cutting and distributing involved with a large cake.
Depending on the kind of blooms you want, extravagant floral arrangements get costly. Some flowers are harder to grow than others, so you typically pay more for unique flowers such a peonies, Juliet garden roses, Dutch hydrangeas and blush. In saying this, don’t feel guilty about wanting real flowers incorporated into your wedding. Picking blooms that are in season lowers the cost. And remember, silk florals can look just as beautiful if real flowers aren’t an option.
Less expensive floral options include basic hydrangeas, roses, and greenery. Locally sourced flowers are guaranteed to save you money. If you buy in bulk, you save even more!
Many couples opt for a dry wedding to save some major cash, and rightly so. Gauge how many guests are into drinking. If you choose to do an open bar, paying a flat rate for alcohol may not be the best idea if most of your guests don’t drink. If your guests are definitely ready to party, consider hosting an open bar for an hour or two and then moving to a cash bar later in the night as a nice compromise. Consider paying alcohol à la carte. Offer beer, a signature cocktail, and wine instead of a full bar.
Don’t get me wrong, your wedding venue is VERY important. But should 80% of your budget go towards a wedding venue rental fee? You might regret that cost no matter how perfect you think the space is. Find a venue that both you and your fiancé agree on, then analyze the situation. A cheaper venue may need some extra lighting, linen, and flowers. These additions won’t break the bank, and you can add your own personalized touch.
An average wedding venue will cost around $3,000. This is a good range to look for when venue shopping. If the venue begins to creep on $6,000, you may want re-prioritize. Of course, if a space is absolutely "the one" or has special meaning, make some trade-offs and make it work - just stay in budget!
Unless champagne is on your “Top 5” list, you should probably cut the champagne toast out completely. While it sounds like a romantic touch for the reception, most guests will take one sip of the costly glass, then leave it forgotten on the table. That’s a sad sight if I ever saw one.
Pro tip: Sparkling wine, sparkling cider or sparkling white grape juice does the trick. You’re guests won’t even notice. They’ll just be admiring the happy couple!
Expensive Place Settings
At the end of the day, little decor details go unnoticed. Guests will remember the memories made with others, and you’ll remember the feeling of your first kiss after saying “I Do.” Don't feel bad about skimping on extra items like place cards, fancy aisle runners, chair covers, or customized signs. Direct your energy to the grander details like centerpieces, tablecloths, photo walls, and floral arrangements.
After the vows are made, you and your newly wed will be in a sea of bliss. Shortly after the ceremony when you’re sitting on a beach somewhere, margarita in hand, you don’t want the looming cloud of debt over your heads. Starting a marriage with financial stress puts a damper on the honeymoon phase and beyond. Both partners need to be on the same page when it comes to having a realistic wedding budget. That’s something you won’t regret! Don’t feel too pressured by social media and wedding blogs when it comes to how much to spend. This is your dream wedding, so you have the freedom to create this day however you wish. Money doesn’t define the special moments that will occur. The most important thing is that you’re getting married!! So splurge the right way, wheel and deal the right way, and enjoy the ride.
Do you have any other tips for making the most of your wedding budget? Leave us a comment!
Very helpful! Definitely planning on prioritizing the experience rather than worrying about extravagant favors
Very helpful info! My fiancé and I decided early on what we both had as our priorities and things we didn’t care about as much, and compromised from there. Great breakdown!
Love all the helpful info on this blog. So glad I found this on Pinterest. Thanks for the free drawing too!
Love this article! Great tips! I have been a bridesmaid in several weddings now. Each bride had different details about their weeding that were super important to them. So prioritizing what is most important and what is less important to spend money on is imperative to staying with in budget :)
It’s nice to get ideas where you can cut the expenses down. Been trying to keep the costs down.
So helpful! I definitely agree with splurging for the photographer. A friend of mine had an amateur photographer who lost all the pictures by accidentally deleting the photos before delivery. They were left with a few thumbnails but nothing to fill even a small album.
We decided right away that floral centerpieces weren’t a priority, and decided to put the money from that part of the budget towards our food and drink budget, and by extension our venue.
It’s nice to save money where you can so you can splurge on the items that are most important you and your significant other.
Good to know!
My fiancé and I are beginning our list of top 5s now and realize we share similar ideas so thank you for the great tip on that as well as what else to splurge and save on! It has helped us narrow down vendors already.